President Donald Trump provided an uncharacteristically reflective account of his relationship with his late brother Fred Trump Jr. in a new interview with The Washington Post, again citing his deceased brother’s struggle with alcoholism as a driving force behind his administration’s war on the opioid crisis.
“I guess you could say now I’m the chief of trying to solve it,” Trump told the Post in an interview published Thursday. “I don’t know that I’d be working, devoting the kind of time and energy and even the money we are allocating to (the opioid crisis) … I don’t know that I’d be doing that had I not had the experience with Fred.”
Fred Trump Jr. struggled with alcoholism for much of his life and died in 1981 at age 42. President Trump, who rarely admits mistakes and seldomly speaks in such personal terms, has previously cited his brother’s addiction when pushing for tougher drug enforcement and awareness, but he provided new insights to the Post about his relationship with his late brother and the regrets he holds from placing career pressure on him.
Trump told the paper that he once told his brother that he was “wasting his time” with his aspirations of becoming a pilot instead of joining the family’s real estate business and said, “I do regret having put pressure on him.”
“It was just not his thing … I think the mistake that we made was we assumed that everybody would like it,” he told the Post, referring to the family’s business. “That would be the biggest mistake … There was sort of a double pressure put on him,” he told the paper, referring to himself and his father, Fred Trump Sr.
The Post said Fred Jr.’s struggle with addiction “scarred (the President) like no other event, and he said he remains haunted by watching Fred Jr.’s handsome features fade.”
“He was so handsome, and I saw what alcohol did to him even physically … and that had an impact on me, too,” Trump told the paper, adding that his brother “actually lived a long time, longer than you would expect.”
When his brother was “was gaunt, ill and hospitalized,” according to the Post, Trump visited him at the hospital, asking him on one occasion why he found drinking desirable. The President does not drink or smoke.
“I used to ask, ‘Is it the taste, or what is it?’” Trump told the Post. “He didn’t know what to say about it because, frankly, it was just something that he liked.”
The President told the paper that Fred Trump Jr. was sent to a rehabilitation program “a number of times,” and that while he couldn’t recall if it was an in-patient program, he “spent a lot of times with Fred.”
In the interview, Trump also addressed his concern that he, too, could become addicted to alcohol, saying, “Let’s say I started drinking, it’s very possible I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.